Our Predictions For Culture, Wellness, and Beyond
The year 2020 can only be described as a curveball — one thrown at us in a stadium filled with cardboard-cutout fans, that is. While entering the new decade, we couldn't have foreseen the immense upheaval that would come when the COVID-19 pandemic forced communities across the globe to shut down. "Home" and "office" were synonymous for many, while others braved the outside world as essential workers to keep society afloat. (Thank you endlessly, essential workers!) Phrases like "social distancing” and "Zoom happy hour" quickly joined our everyday vernacular, and face masks became daily essentials.
Paired with nationwide demonstrations against systemic racism, the loss of numerous celebrity icons, and a contentious election season, 2020 left many rethinking their prepandemic lives, as they recognized the dire need for societal change and learned to appreciate the little things. Life won't just snap back to normal in 2021 — to quote Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, "We're not going back to brunch." But with multiple vaccines rolling out as we speak, there's hope we'll collectively move forward with newfound revelations on personal boundaries, what it means to be considerate, the importance of equity, and what (or who) is deserving of our money.
So, where do we go from here? How can we possibly know what to expect of the year ahead when 2020 turned life as we knew it upside down? We may not have a crystal ball with all the answers, but we do have a team of in-the-know editors with a knack for forecasting trends year after year. Ahead, these editors share their takes on how life will continue evolving in 2021, from politics and parenting to fashion and fitness. — Victoria Messina
Image Source: Left: POPSUGAR Photography / Eric Helgas; Center: POPSUGAR Photography / Matthew Kelly; Right: POPSUGAR Photography / Matthew Kelly
The health, fitness, and wellness spaces will continue to adapt to a changing landscape that has deeply affected how we approach our own well-being. Gone are the days of 6 a.m. boot camps and sweaty Spin classes in boutique studios. Instead, people will be more gentle with themselves and move their bodies wherever and however they can: low-impact cardio, yoga to de-stress, stretches and exercises to improve chronic aches and pains, mobility work, and getting in a quick run outside. At-home workouts are getting an upgrade with versatile equipment that can be easily tucked away, like multiuse kettlebells and foldable stationary bikes. And because we all need a little extra motivation right now, you can anticipate that many local gyms and trainers will offer one-on-one training, live workouts, and socially distant outdoor classes.
With COVID-19 vaccines rolling out, people will be focused on keeping their immune systems healthy by integrating supplements into their regimens, like vitamin D for immunity and adaptogens for energy and stress relief. We'll also see a heavier reliance on science and technology as it relates to overall health. Whether it's using apps to track your birth control, signing up for Apple Fitness+, or receiving COVID-exposure notifications on your phone, devices will increasingly be more in tune with our bodies. As we nurture our minds the way we do our bodies, we should see more accessible forms of therapy, telehealth, and apps for meditation at our fingertips. Expect a focus on body neutrality rather than body positivity and embracing intuitive eating to heal our relationship with food as well as our relationship with ourselves.
Image Source: Left: POPSUGAR Photography / Eric Helgas; Center: sephora.com; Right: POPSUGAR Photography / Renee Rodriguez
If 2020 was the beauty industry's awakening, 2021 will be its follow-through. Following last year's Pull Up or Shut Up Challenge and 15 percent pledges, there will be a shift from "cancel culture" to "accountability culture," forcing brands to reveal their progress. Beauty will also be used as a vehicle for activism, whether through grants for Black-owned beauty businesses offered by big-name companies like Unilever and Glossier, wider diversity partnerships and initiatives, or demands for more cosmetology-school training on textured hair and melanin-rich skin.
With a greater focus on conscious consumerism, products will take a sharper turn toward sustainability, introducing even more refillable innovations, package-free options, and transparency with ingredients. Seeing as swatching lipstick samples touched by dozens of other customers isn't exactly pandemic-friendly, the "try before you buy" model will also get a makeover in 2021 as brands experiment with new, customized ways to shop. For cosmetics stores, that might mean offering AI-driven color makeup matching or expanding virtual offerings that replace in-person beauty appointments. With skin care, keep your eyes peeled for a new wave of "touchless" treatments that feature high-tech tools, both in salons and at home. And look forward to hearing more about the "skinimalism" trend, which emphasizes natural, pared-down makeup looks and defying photo retouching to show off real skin — blemishes and all. Nice knowin' ya, Facetune.
Image Source: Left: POPSUGAR Photography / Diggy Lloyd; Center: POPSUGAR TikTok; Right: Netflix
The future is here, and Hollywood has no choice but to get on board. The entertainment industry will spend 2021 processing learnings from a year that challenged its core values and capacity to pivot. Diversity and inclusion will remain top of mind; 2020's reckoning with discrimination will find heightened conversations around better representation of marginalized groups. The industry will also see a full-on Latin music takeover, as performers like Maluma and Bad Bunny build upon their billion-streams-deep strongholds. With this dedication to creating entertainment that more directly reflects our world, the masses will hold celebrities more accountable for their role in moving us forward.
TikTok will seal its destiny as a music-industry tastemaker in an official capacity, as the success of songs and albums hinge on the platform's unique ability to spread a track like wildfire. TikTok stars will continue solidifying their bona-fide celebrity status, following in the footsteps of 2020 breakouts like Sarah Cooper, Shubha Vedula, Drea Knows Best, and many more. Be prepared for those who've gained big followings on the app to pop up on talk shows and in magazine features right alongside mainstream A-listers.
For those of us who still can't make it to the theater, many big films will premiere right in our living rooms next year (and without the hefty popcorn prices). Warner Bros. has already planned to make its full 2021 slate available on HBO Max (including movies we can't wait to see like In the Heights, The Matrix 4, and Dune). Many award-show favorites will also be available to stream at home (like One Night in Miami, The Trial of the Chicago 7, and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom), so get ready to dominate your Oscars pool in April.
Image Source: Left: courtesy of Aurora James; Center: courtesy of ThredUP; Right: POPSUGAR Photography / Matthew Kelly
In 2021, we'll see the reinvention of "shoptimism." We are witnessing a collective, conscious effort to cut down on fast fashion, trend chasing, and waste as people search for brands that do good while making them feel and look good. They don't just want cheap thrills: they want lasting, lifelong enjoyment and the assurance that they are shopping ethically — which, quite frankly, is priceless. In the year to come, expect a higher standard for the way brands create their products; we'll see items that are well-made, more sustainable, and able to seamlessly slide into any wardrobe. Less will be more as consumers thoughtfully build their collections, keeping personal style and individualism at the forefront. Shoppers will be more thoughtful and careful about how they spend; the need for constant new purchases will be a thing of the past. We'll rework items we already own, buy less, and buy better.
Yes, fast fashion will still exist, but it might take on a new form with smaller collections and less transient, limited-time-only trends. And as younger generations show an interest in vintage clothing and secondhand shopping, more nostalgic styles will make their comebacks. Campaigns, editorials, and ecommerce sites, meanwhile, will also undergo much-needed changes to showcase diverse talent and make people feel included through extended sizes and gender-neutral clothing. Just as the fight for equality came to define the past year, the fashion industry will continue to develop accordingly and put those learnings and principles into practice. As renowned stylist Law Roach recently told us: "It is easy to latch onto trends without considering the process behind it. Now more than ever people should be aware of themselves, their purchases, and the community."
Image Source: Left: POPSUGAR Photography / Laura Meyers; Right: POPSUGAR Photography / Matthew Kelly
Some good news: a healthier work-life balance might finally be on its way to becoming more attainable in 2021. Those who are working from home can prepare to see more flexible work hours and routines that combine remote and in-office work (once it's safe to do so!). Long-term WFH life means finally investing in standing desks that prevent you from sinking into that hunched-over-computer posture, chairs besides the stiff ones at the kitchen table, and lighting that lets your coworkers see your face during video chats. For those who can't work from home, mental health conversations and resources will take priority as essential workers cope with the trauma of being on the front lines of a global pandemic.
This year has shone a spotlight on the amount of work that still needs to be done to create workplaces that are actually inclusive and equitable (spoiler: it's a lot), and the year ahead will reveal which companies will make good on their promises. Increasing representation across the board is a marathon, not a sprint, but we predict 2021 will see companies ramping up their efforts with fairer and more equitable recruiting and hiring practices, employee resource groups to create a sense of safety and community, and trainings to promote antiracism and address microaggressions.
Image Source: Left: Unsplash / Matthew Ronder-Seid; Center: POPSUGAR Photography / Eric Helgas; Right: Unsplash / Chelsea Bock
With prospects for international trips still up in the air, travel in 2021 will revolve around exploring our own backyards. Think: lengthy road trips, camping (or glamping) excursions, small-town visits, and secluded cabin escapes. Soaking up fresh air in the great outdoors will be a prime objective for anyone hitting the road, with recreational activities like hiking and biking reigning supreme. Those able to work remotely will lean into taking "flexcations," which involve both working and relaxing in a new location for an extended period of time so you get a change of scenery without having to use all your PTO on one getaway. WFH? Try WFARAITW (Working From a Remote Airbnb in the Woods).
Those itching to get away or reunite with long-distance family members are also looking ahead to the future, continuing to beef up their bucket lists with dream destinations (the Maldives! Greece! Bali!) and saving up for those big-ticket expeditions. And once it's deemed safe to responsibly travel outside of the country, there will be no hesitation in booking those faraway vacations. Passports, get ready for some new stamps.
Image Source: Left: Getty / Alex Wroblewski; Center: Getty / Kerem Yucel; Right: Getty / Drew Angerer
After a drawn-out election that made voters intimately familiar with distant counties, turned political commentators into celebrities, and bred a baseless legal circus after the ballots were counted: an exhale. The coming year, specifically Jan. 20, will mark the arrival of a new administration in the White House. Though the first 100 days of any presidency are crucial, that feels especially true for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who will be working to roll out the COVID-19 vaccines, potentially issue a mask mandate, and do a lot of undoing.
Congress will also undergo some changes. The recently reelected Squad, consisting of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib, will soon be joined by other progressives and history-makers like Cori Bush, Missouri's first Black congresswoman, and Sarah McBride, the first out transgender state senator. Many are feeling relieved by the election's outcome — hopeful even — but following a year that solidified Black Lives Matter as one of the largest movements in the nation's history, activism both online and offline will likely still underscore the year to come. The march continues, though there may be fewer obstacles.
Image Source: Left: Getty / Shangarey; Center: Getty / Emilija Manevska; Right: POPSUGAR Photography / Levi Mandel
As if they aren't masters of juggling already, 2021 will see parents continuing their Herculean attempts to meet the demands of work, child care, and virtual learning. Moms in particular have been bearing the economic and mental brunt of COVID-19. An alarming number of women have been forced to work fewer hours or give up their jobs entirely to care for their families, and moms are reportedly taking on the majority of domestic labor (including homeschooling, which can be quite the undertaking), even if they're still working. With so much disruption, kids are struggling to cope with heightened levels of stress as they navigate change and loss. As a result, prioritizing mental health will remain crucial for families — parents will keep reinventing self-care practices to stay afloat (bring on all the solo sanity walks) and will do their best to equip kids with coping tools. Mindfulness will play a larger role in everything from discipline to play, with calming corners and kids' meditation apps finding a larger audience.
In addition to emotional development, parents will also be seeking virtual enrichment opportunities for their kiddos, whether it's uncovering unexpected extracurricular activities or advocating for flexibility with online academic courses. On the flip side, parents are also rediscovering the joys and importance of unplugging — and instilling that balance in their kids. More households will carve out family-wide, screen-free time to connect as a part of their daily routines. Look out for new subscription-box offerings tailored to meet children's interests and personality types, a surge in kids' bike and scooter purchases, parents getting creative with backyard play setups, and more children being introduced to board games like chess and time-consuming activities like jigsaw puzzles.
Image Source: Left: Unsplash / Louis Hansel; Center: fromourplace.com; Right: POPSUGAR Photography / Matthew Kelly
The coming year will find the food world adapting to our new way of life in order to reach customers — and more specifically, their taste buds — in safe, creative ways. In addition to offering unconventional takeout options like at-home meal and cocktail kits and selling their pantry staples at pop-up markets, restaurants are also giving visitors more convenient dining options with menu QR codes (take that, sticky menus) and remote wait lists (peace out, long lines). And foodies will return the favor. It's more vital than ever to support local businesses, and consumers will order more takeout, share their recommendations on social media, and use new apps to rate restaurants' COVID-19 restrictions and cleanliness.
Of course, the at-home baking and cooking craze isn't going anywhere — but it's moving far beyond just sourdough and banana bread. With chefs from around the world teaching online cooking classes and famous brands and eateries sharing their long-kept-secret recipes with the public, many will be mastering more complicated dishes in their own kitchens and bringing them to life with trendy equipment like air fryers and the Instagram-adored Always Pan.
As the fight against climate change persists, "upcycled" foods will become an even more crucial part of the conversation. Those looking to reduce their carbon footprint and cut down on food waste are subscribing to services that deliver wonky, misshapen produce and purchasing snacks and drinks made of leftover scraps that would've otherwise wound up in the garbage. Crooked carrots, it's your time to shine.
Image Source: Left: Perpixel Photography; Center: Renoda Campbell Photography; Right: Getty / Victor Dyomin
After a year of postponements and cancellations, engaged couples are realizing that maybe they don't need that big, pricey party after all. Pairs are taking their nuptials into the great outdoors — from backyard microweddings to desert elopements — with intimate "I dos" that incorporate breathtaking scenery, laid-back vibes, and a renewed focus on romance and quality time with guests instead of over-the-top extravagance. Brides are keeping it more casual with minimal makeup looks they can DIY, off-the-rack dresses they can repurpose or resell, and personalized denim and leather bridal jackets they can toss over their wedding attire for their receptions.
Practicality meets purpose as couples take a beat to be thoughtful about their weddings, from budget to choosing vendors. Couples are being especially intentional about which companies they're financially supporting as the wedding industry attempts to bounce back amid the pandemic, opting to hire Black-owned bakeries, environmentally conscious florists, and more. Simple switch-ups like weekday weddings mean couples can use the extra budget for a more personalized experience, offering guests themed welcome boxes (mini hand sanitizer and face mask included!) and live entertainment that goes beyond a DJ. Alternatively, some couples are skipping the big-ticket frills altogether and instead investing those savings into their future lives together.
Contributing Editors: Kelsey Garcia, Kelsey Castañon, Sarah Wasilak, Christina Stiehl, Tara Block, Iyana Robertson, Caitlin Gallagher, Angela Elias, Perri Konecky, Mandy Harris, Becky Kirsch Marketing: Maya Berry, Victoria Pedlar
Site Design: Patricia O'Connor, Deniza Sabio Creative Direction: Jae Payne
Header Image Sources: POPSUGAR Photography / Matthew Kelly, Getty, Netflix